Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: After 20 years of living together, my partner informed me that she was in love with someone else and had been slipping off to his house when she told me she was visiting a girlfriend. “Lois” says there was no sex involved – just hugging and kissing, etc.

I confronted this man, and he denied he had any feelings for Lois except as a friend. He said she asked him for a hug, so he hugged her, but nothing else happened. He denied they kissed. Twice after that, he told Lois to her face that he has no feelings for her.

This guy is a snowbird and is here only during the winter. Lois says she loves me, but is not “in love” with me, and when this guy returns, she is going to be hugging and kissing him whether I like it or not. She believes he loves her, no matter what he says.

Lois is 76, and I am 81. I told her there is no way she can continue to live with me if she’s going to remain friendly with this guy, and that I would leave. I love her, but will not share her. I also don’t believe this guy cares for her, but he doesn’t have the nerve to stop her from coming over. Please don’t suggest counseling. Lois has no interest in it.

The guy returns in November. Should I wait or leave?

– Florida Problems

Dear Florida: Lois wants both of you – you for the security, and the Other Man for the romance. He makes her feel young, and unless he actually turns her away, she will keep going over there. Can you rev up the romance over the summer so that Lois is less interested in anyone else? Do you think her infatuation will wear thin and fade away? Do you want to have an open relationship in which both of you can see other people?

You cannot change Lois’ behavior or that of the Other Man. You can only decide how you are going to handle the situation in whatever way works best for you.

Dear Annie: I have been married to my husband for 20 years, and we have two kids in junior high. My problem is, my husband does not wash his hands after using the bathroom or blowing his nose, which drives me crazy.

I mentioned it early on, and he claimed he was “careful enough” so that nothing ever got on his hands. I know that’s not possible. How do I get through to him that he’s risking illness for himself and the entire family?

– Grossed Out in Quebec

Dear Quebec: Not washing one’s hands after using the bathroom, coughing or blowing one’s nose is a surefire way to transmit germs. It is particularly important to wash one’s hands before handling food. You could ask your husband to discuss the health risks with his doctor, or you could try behavior modification – refusing to kiss or touch him until he washes his hands, for example. But you cannot force him to be more considerate, sorry.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: When my husband died, my daughter, “Emma,” insisted that I move in with her to take over the child care, cooking, cleaning, etc. One of my requirements was bringing my dog. Emma knows “Maisie” is a barker, but promised it wouldn’t be a problem.

Emma began seeing a fine young man, who moved in with us. But Maisie barked at him. When the boyfriend’s car was repossessed, I let him use mine. It was a gas-guzzler, so Emma insisted I sell it, even though I didn’t want to. She said I was selfish, so I caved. She used the money to buy another car, but the registration is in her name. She said it was for the entire family, but I think I was taken for $5,000.

Last year, Emma told me to give her the money from my retirement fund to open a new business. My financial adviser agreed that it was a good investment, so I let her have the money, with the understanding that I would continue living with her.

But when Emma married the boyfriend, they moved into a new home, and I was told that Maisie would not be welcome. I was shocked that they expected me to get rid of my beloved companion. When she again said I was selfish, I lost my temper. Emma told me to move in with a friend until I “see the error of my ways.”

Emma now won’t let me see my grandson and says I’m choosing my dog over her. She says we can’t have a relationship unless I apologize. Even if I do, I realize that she will use her son as a weapon any time I do something she doesn’t like, and by caving (again), I’d be telling her that it’s OK to break her promises. Any thoughts?

– Maisie’s Mom, Too

Dear Mom: Emma sounds like a bully and a manipulator. She may be right that you are choosing Maisie over her, but the dog is part of your family, and this was the agreement she made. You have given Emma free child care and a new business, while she has stolen your car and made you homeless. Are you willing to sue her for the money? If not, you’ll need to grit your teeth and apologize, but talk to your investment counselor about ways to recoup some of your losses.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Concerned Grandparents,” whose daughter’s home is a mess. Thank you so much for your supportive response.

I was never taught to clean as a child, because my mother did everything. So did my mother-in-law. While it was wonderful that our mothers allowed us to be little and simply cleaned up after us, my kids don’t have that. My husband and I are messy. Our children are, too, and we are working toward change. Just as my sons are getting better at baseball each year, we are becoming better housekeepers.

– Not Quite a Grownup

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I have a 24-year-old daughter by an ex-girlfriend. When “Tiffany” was a child, her mother made it very difficult for me to see her. At one point, her attorney sent me a letter saying I would not have to pay child support if I gave up all parental rights. I refused. When Tiffany was 9 years old, my ex moved to another state without telling me. I found her through her former neighbors. Consequently, I was only able to see Tiffany for a couple of weeks in the summer.

Considering all of her mother’s obstructions, I think Tiffany and I have a good relationship. I attended her high school and college graduations, and she comes to visit me once a year. I call her every month to see how she’s doing.

Tiffany is getting married next year and just told me that although she doesn’t want to hurt me, she wants her mother to walk her down the aisle. She said her Mom has always been there for her. Tiffany did suggest that I could wait at the front pew of the church and actually give her away to her fiance.

I am very hurt by this, and I think Tiffany is being unfair to me. Do you have any suggestions?

– Heartbroken

Dear Heartbroken: We know your ex made it difficult for you to be a more involved parent, and you did what you could, but regardless, your relationship is not as close as the one she has with Mom, and it serves no purpose to point fingers now. Tiffany wants Mom to walk her down the aisle, and she has asked you to have the honor of “giving her away.” This is actually a decent compromise and not the snub you seem to think. It is simply one moment of one day of the rest of your lives. If you want to continue your good relationship with Tiffany, please tell her you would be thrilled to wait at the front of the church and escort her to her fiance.

Dear Annie: I disagree with your advice to transfer photos to your computer and discard the originals. Computer programs change, and the photos are not always accessible. If photographs are kept on good paper (acid-free) in a cool, dry place in acid-free boxes or albums, they will last a long time. Ask any museum for help.

– Hoosier Historian

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column.

Email questions to or write to Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Omaha, Neb.,” whose wife is grossly overweight. He says he wants to grow old with her. You said, “What woman could resist that?” My wife of 28 years, that’s who. My wife says she doesn’t want to outlive me because she would be too devastated by the loss (unless the stress of watching her eat and drink herself to death gives me a heart attack). She has stated that she doesn’t really care about her weight, lack of exercise or eating habits, so if she dies, it’s all for the better.

She eats voraciously, binge-drinks until she nearly passes out, and doesn’t exercise beyond getting out of bed to sit in her recliner. She is out of breath after climbing five steps. It can take her several minutes to get into the car. She also smokes. She has no strength or stamina, plus she has back, hip, leg and foot problems, and sleep apnea. She’s on multiple medications and lies to her doctor about what she eats and how little she moves around. She won’t see a counselor. And our sex life? Fuhgeddaboudit.

If I say, “Let’s take a walk,” she says, “I’m too tired.” If I say, “You’re killing yourself,” her answer is, “I don’t care.” We own a treadmill and a stationary bike, both nice clothes hangers. I love my wife, but she’s difficult to be with. I hope she reads this. She sure isn’t paying attention to me.

– Given Up Hope Out East

Dear Just: We aren’t buying your wife’s reasoning. We think she has given up on living a healthy life because the amount of work required is overwhelming and depressing. But she also is putting tremendous strain on you. You cannot fix this. She must want to do it for herself. So make sure she has a legal will and that her funeral wishes are written down for you. Then let her do what she wants. You need to live the best life you can while she lets hers slowly fade away.

Dear Annie: “Sleepless” seems very concerned about absolving his co-worker of the wrongdoing of having accepted his money for sex several years ago. But his actions were equally as immoral and embarrassing. For some reason, this long-ago encounter was memorable for him, but I doubt it meant much to her. She probably doesn’t remember him. She certainly isn’t carrying around a letter to him. This woman has moved on. I don’t believe he intends to make her feel better. I think he wants to humiliate her to soothe his own guilt.

– Ohio

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to or write to Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. Visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I am in my second marriage. My two adult children were pre-teens when I married “Lenny” 15 years ago.

The problem is, Lenny has a bad temper and little patience. He flies off the handle and gets upset easily. It makes life difficult. He doesn’t frighten me, and I can easily tell him to stop when these episodes begin, but they upset the whole family.

Now that my kids are grown, they have told me that they always resented my “putting them in this position” by marrying Lenny. They are respectful to him, but have no interest in sitting down and having a conversation with him. When the kids are in the house, I often run around trying to keep everyone calm. It makes me nervous. Lenny tried counseling, but not for very long. He said it wasn’t helping.

How do I keep a relationship with my kids? I don’t want to be divorced a second time. While I am sure that Lenny would never harm me, I’m not certain how he would react if I asked him to leave. He does have some good qualities, but it’s hard to remember them when he has these outbursts. Please help me keep my kids in my life. What can I do?

– Helpless

Dear Helpless: You can call the Domestic Violence Hotline ( at 1-800-799-SAFE and ask about protected ways to leave your environment. You also can ask for help in discussing ways to get Lenny to return for counseling in anger management. If you decide to stay with Lenny, you can arrange to see your children outside of your home, having a relationship that doesn’t include Lenny. Do not push them to be with him.

Dear Annie: “Nude Bodies Are OK” says nude art is not porn, but you cannot always control what happens when viewing nudity. I have counseled people who were addicted to pornography, and it robs men of their confidence and self-respect. Some people become addicted after a single viewing. I have seen couples divorce and children separated from parents because one of them couldn’t stop using porn.

Suggesting that porn is OK for any length of time and in any form encourages people to try doing what their own good sense warns them is dangerous. Women should not be encouraged to think that a husband who uses porn is “safe” from affairs and that it will somehow strengthen the marriage in the bedroom. This is ludicrous. If he is looking at pornography, he is bonding with the pornography. Brain chemistry is potent, and it is both difficult and unlikely that people will overcome the addiction permanently once it grabs them. – Be a Man

Dear Man: There is a difference between nudity and pornography. No normal person would become addicted to porn after viewing Michelangelo’s David. But anything that debases women, airbrushes body flaws, shows sex acts, etc., is indeed porn and can be surprisingly addictive. Even a little can destroy marriages and lives.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I have a son with serious anxiety problems. He gets it from his father. That entire side of the family has so much anxiety that they never take vacations because they can’t deal with the stress of leaving home.

When my son was in his early teens, I tried to get him into counseling, but we live in a rural area, and there are few resources.

He also has incredibly bad luck. He is now in his early 20s and went to college this semester at a local university. His schedule was messed up, and he ended up with some oddball classes, including one that requires a lot of public speaking.

This class made him physically ill, and he decided not to return to school.

My son is a smart kid, and it’s killing me to watch him go through this. He seems to be spiraling downward and has had some bad experiences with medication and counseling at school.

He is not willing to try either again. This kid is no slacker. He’s worked since he was 15 and has held two jobs since high school. I don’t know how to direct him or what to do. Please help.

– Scared Mom

Dear Mom: Your son has accepted his anxiety as something he cannot change, which means he’s given up. Anxiety issues can be crippling, but there are ways to work on them – including counseling, medication and support groups. But your son has to want to work on his problems, and that motivation must come from within. Please suggest he contact the Anxiety and Depression Association of America ( Sometimes, one small step in the right direction can help.

Dear Annie: I have been a registered dental hygienist for the past 32 years. I assure you that part of my sterilizing routine between each patient includes sterilizing the overhead light, light switch and handle.

If a patient has any concerns about the equipment not being sterile, he or she should address them at the next appointment. I would never want a patient to question the cleanliness of my operatory. I would be happy to share my sterilizing procedures.

– Professional and Hygienic

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column.

Email questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I recently remarried and became a stepmom to my husband’s three daughters. My concern is his oldest, “Kallie,” who is 14. A few months ago, her father picked her up for our weekend, and she was terribly sad. When he asked what was wrong, her younger sister piped up with, “Her girlfriend broke up with her.” Kallie thought her dad would be upset, because her mother berated her and said that being gay is wrong.

Kallie’s current school district is more well-to-do than her previous one, and she is having a harder time fitting in. However, she has had two boyfriends. I asked her whether she still wants to be with girls, and she replied that she likes everyone and considers herself pansexual. She recently chopped off her long hair and has taken to gender-neutral clothes. She also has an “everyone hates me because of how I look” attitude.

A few weekends ago, Kallie posted online that she feels we are forcing her to go to church. Her father told her attending church allows us to spend time together but she does not have to go if it makes her uncomfortable. She then told us that her mother and the people at her church berate her for her beliefs. When she comes here, she only wants to sit in her room, read or play on her phone. When we say we miss her, she will come out and watch TV with us, but soon returns to her room.

I worry that Kallie may be depressed or suicidal. I want her to see that our home is a safe place. Her mother won’t let us have her for any time beyond what the courts allow, which means counseling isn’t going to happen. I’m sure we could notify the school of our concerns, but we fear it would make things worse. Any ideas?

– Worried Stepmom

Dear Worried: Kallie knows that your home is a safe place, which is terrific for her. But she lives primarily with her mother. Could your husband speak to his ex-wife about Kallie? Could they discuss better ways to handle her issues? Would the ex consider giving primary custody to Dad? Meanwhile, be supportive of Kallie in other ways, exclusive of her gender issues. That should not become your main focus. Let her know you value her as she is, because surely she has many wonderful qualities. If she feels secure, the other problems will work themselves out. And please contact PFLAG ( for information and resources.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Fed Up in Wisconsin,” whose 21-year-old boyfriend chews with his mouth open, smacks his lips and speaks with his mouth full. My niece had the same problem. I could barely stomach sitting at the same table with her. Constant attempts to correct her were fruitless until I got the idea to secretly videotape a meal. When she saw the tape, she said, “That’s disgusting!” and asked for help in changing her habits.

– Louisville, Ky.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I’m the youngest of 10 siblings. Most of my brothers and sisters are much older, and I was raised primarily with “Sara and Tina,” who often bullied and hit me. Consequently, my mother would not leave me alone with them, and my sisters grew to resent the closeness I had with Mom.

When we grew up, I was the one who took responsibility for my parents when they were sick and needed money. I put myself through college and established an excellent career. My parents admired this, but Sara and Tina became passive-aggressive toward me. They voiced their dislike of my husband, and they never called or included me in family outings.

I have always loved my nieces and nephews and have been attentive to their birthdays and celebrations. But when my 4-year-old daughter died, neither Tina nor Sara called to see how we were or offered to take my young son for some time away from his depressed parents. When I asked them why, they became defensive and said I always make them feel inferior. My older siblings agree that Sara and Tina are jealous of me, but they made no effort to intervene and simply told me to ignore them. So I did.

Sara, Tina and I live in the same city. Four years ago, I had another baby, and they never came to see us. At that point, I cut them off altogether.

Yesterday, I received an invitation to a family reunion. I don’t want to go. I don’t consider these people my family any longer, and it will only hurt to see that I’ve always been the outsider. My son is 12 and my daughter is 7, and they don’t know any of my siblings. What do you think?

– Thought I Was Part of a Large Family

Dear Thought: When there is a large age gap between siblings, it can be difficult to form a close bond. And because you seem to have focused all of your efforts solely on Tina and Sara, you believe that none of your siblings has any interest in you. While you are not obligated to attend a family reunion, this is a lot of family to ignore.

We suggest you attend, but give Tina and Sara only a brief acknowledgment, and then try to spend time getting to know your other siblings and their children. You might find more common ground there, and your children might be closer in age to their grandchildren. If you still feel like an outsider after this, any additional contact is unnecessary.

Dear Annie: Tell “Anonymous” to call her local veterinarian to see whether he has a use for the empty prescription pill containers. Our vet was very happy to take all of the pill bottles we could give him.

– Barb

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Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I live in a 55 and older community. At some of our events, the emcee thinks nothing of having a benediction ending with “in Jesus’ name.” The people here are a variety of different religions, and some are atheists. I have confronted the emcee, saying his prayer is inappropriate. I suggested that he say his grace at his own table and not subject the rest of us to his religious beliefs. Any other suggestions as to what I can do? I can’t let this go.

– Not a Christian

Dear Not: It is inappropriate to give a specific religious blessing in a nondenominational setting. Either the blessing must go, or every group should be permitted to give its own version. You need to speak to whoever is in charge of arranging these events and ask that the practice be stopped. We understand that those who agree with this man’s religious views see no harm in it, but it is terribly offensive to others. There is no reason to create ill will in your community over something easily remedied.

Dear Annie: I’ve been close friends with “Jane” for years. Recently, Jane said she feels I do not listen or validate her problems but instead offer her unsolicited advice when all she wants to do is vent.

I apologized for not being a good listener. But, Annie, she complained to me that she is losing her job and her house and wants to leave her husband. My “unsolicited advice” was that she seek counseling. Jane became angry and said she doesn’t need counseling.

When Jane told me she needed to clean her garage but felt overwhelmed by the mess, I offered to help. I said we could do a few hours at a time and be done in a couple of months. She again became angry and said her plan was to hire strong men and have it done in a few hours.

The last time she “vented,” she said her daughter, “Lilly,” misses a lot of class because she has stomach problems, dizziness and keeps injuring her feet. Annie, I’ve never seen this girl so much as limp, and when her mother isn’t around, she’s absolutely fine. When Lilly was little, she told me she wanted to be a boy, and as a pre-teen, she dresses like one. She bullies other girls and often goes to school with dirty hair and has body odor. I work with troubled children and families, yet when I suggested to Jane that Lilly’s constant illnesses may be stress-related, she became defensive and said it was probably an ear infection.

Recently, a mutual friend who is a counselor confided to me that she thinks Lilly might have sexual identity issues. How do I present this to Jane without her accusing me of attacking her?

– Friend with Good Intentions

Dear Friend: You can’t. Jane is in denial about herself and her daughter. She also has made it quite clear that she doesn’t want to hear your advice, suggestions or opinions. When she vents to you, simply nod your head sympathetically. Anything more will get her dander up. The school should be paying attention to Lilly’s constant illnesses and discussing the possibility of stress with Jane. You might bring it up to the school counselor.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I have been married for eight years and knew my husband for four years before that. The problem is my stepchildren.

Whenever there is a family function, invitations are addressed to my husband only, as if I don’t exist. My husband’s children always buy him gifts for his birthday and holidays, but I get a gift from one or two of them, and the rest ignore me. I sign everything, “Dad and Mary” or “Grandpa Bob and Grandma Mary,” but the thank-you always goes to “Dad” or “Grandpa.” His grown children are nice to me, but I am not included in anything. Even on the wedding invitation from his son, it was addressed to “Bob Jones and Family.”

I have children of my own, and they would never dream of treating their stepdad like this. Am I being too sensitive? I am at the point where I don’t want to participate in any more birthday parties, holidays or anything else that involves getting together with his kids.

I have tried so hard to get them to like me. I met their Dad after his marriage was over, and his wife had cheated on him. They treat their stepdad great. So why do I get this treatment? I don’t think it’s ever going to get any better. Am I right to say forget about them?

– Feel Left Out

Dear Feel: We think the kids like you well enough, but they aren’t entirely comfortable with your position. And where their mother no doubt insists that they treat her husband with respect, your husband doesn’t seem to be demanding the same. He needs to tell his kids that notes and invitations to the two of you need to be addressed that way, and that your special occasions should be recognized with at least a card. Meanwhile, we hope you can handle some of this with humor instead of bitterness. It will help.

Dear Annie: I was taken back by “Betsey’s” response to “Concerned Mother.” To this day, I send my mother a text telling her I am home when returning from a trip. This is something I have done since I was a latchkey kid, all the way through college and now as a 33-year-old working mom. It gives both of us peace of mind. My 42-year-old husband does the same thing. We do not feel suffocated. It’s just what we do when we know others love us.

– Latchkey Mom

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column.

Email questions to or write to Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I have twin teenage granddaughters who visit me every year for a week. They also bring along a friend (just one, thank goodness). I love having them, but I end up spending a fortune entertaining them. I pay for every meal, including restaurants, and we eat out a lot. I love to take them places, but I’m on a fixed income and would like to make it less expensive.

Do you think if I were to give each of my granddaughters a set amount of money they would be more frugal? They earn a lot of money babysitting, but I feel funny asking them to spend their own money on things when they visit me. Any suggestions?

– Going Broke in Florida

Dear Going Broke: You should not have to foot the entire bill for two teenagers and their friend. You are already giving them a free place to stay and any meals eaten at home. But please don’t demand payment from the girls. Instead, ask the parents to help you with the cost of entertaining these young people for a week. They also could give the girls an allowance for personal expenses (movies with the friend, trips to a restaurant, mall purchases). The extra girl’s parents should similarly send her with personal money so she does not become a burden.

Taking the girls for a week is a lovely way to bond with your granddaughters, but it is also a favor to the parents. Explain the situation and ask them to help remedy the problem.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Blue-Collar Grandparents,” whose grandchildren are pulling out their hair. I’d like to suggest that they bring up the possibility of PANDAS (pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with strep).

If either of these kids has had numerous strep infections, perhaps they should be tested and assessed. I realize now that my son must have had this when he was 4, but I’d never heard of it then. He had seven strep infections in a row. He began displaying OCD behavior, which included pulling out nearly half of the hair on his head. If your child has multiple strep infections, it might be worthwhile to check for PANDAS, if only to rule it out.

– A Sympathetic Grandmother

Dear Sympathetic: Thank you for mentioning PANDAS. There is currently no test for PANDAS, but doctors look for a sudden onset of OCD and/or tic disorders following multiple strep infections.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to or write to Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: Six months ago, I became involved with a man 20 years my senior. It has become evident that his ex-wife is still very much in the picture.

They divorced 30 years ago, when he found out she was cheating. He gave her the house and half of his earnings until their children were grown. Yet he still phones her and asks whether she needs anything. Those “needs” are usually financial, in spite of her cushy job and mortgage-free life.

What sent me over the edge was a recent visit to his mother’s house. I randomly picked up a family photo of his parents’ 50th anniversary party, and there she was – right in the center.

I have voiced my displeasure loud and clear: Either I am “it,” or I am out! He says she is family. What is a divorce exactly if people are going to exchange gifts and phone calls and show up at family functions?

– Too Little Too Late

Dear Too Little: Every divorced couple is different. Many remain friendly with each other. Those who have children together have a lifelong bond, no matter how old the kids are.

The in-laws may still consider the ex to be part of the family and so invite her to all of their functions. That is their business, not yours. While giving her money is not necessary, your boyfriend is not going to stop contacting his ex simply because you don’t like it. If you cannot deal with that, better to get out now.

Dear Annie: I feel sure that, were she to pick up pen and paper, my mother would be among those parents wailing over their “heartless” children’s “abandoning” them. My mother would say that she was a loving, wonderful parent, and I’m sure she believes it.

Annie, this is a woman who told me every day that she wished she’d aborted me.

When I was very little, she helpfully explained the term so I would know exactly what she meant. Very rarely are abusive parents capable of comprehending that they are, in fact, abusive. There is no child on Earth who wants to not have parents. If your kids have cut you out of their lives, there is a reason, and that reason is YOU.

– S.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column.

Email questions to or write to Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I’m starting to wonder about my son-in-law, “Pete.” He married my daughter some 40 years ago when he was fresh out of the Navy. I was concerned that they had no savings and he had no job training. But he was quiet and likable.

Through the years, however, people I respect have called Pete “no good,” ”a bum,” ”lazy” and “a snake in the grass.” My daughter and grandsons worked and sacrificed to put Pete through college.

One of their boys recently got his girlfriend pregnant, and neither Pete nor my daughter did anything to help that girl. I gave them $500 for a blood test, but they didn’t follow through. I am worried about Pete’s integrity, but also about that of my daughter, who is not doing the right thing. What should I do?

– Worried Grandma

Dear Grandma: Your daughter and Pete have been married for 40 years. It’s a little late to be worried about his influence on her or how they have raised their mostly-grown children. Might your grandson marry this girl? Will he at least help raise the child and pay support? (He is legally liable for that.)

Please don’t use this moment to chastise your daughter or Pete. It won’t do any good and could damage the relationship you have. Instead, encourage your grandson to take an active role in his child’s life.

You could help the young couple financially if you like, and we hope you will welcome your great-grandchild. Stay out of the rest.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Only Child in Massachusetts,” the woman who loved being an only child, and I have to say it hasn’t been pleasant for me.

There were some good things, like not having to share with anyone and having your parents to yourself. But when my parents passed away, I had to lean heavily on my husband, who was wonderful.

When I married, I told my husband I wanted to have more than one child.

Now my husband is gone, and my children are busy with their own lives. They miss having cousins, aunts and uncles, and I would give anything to have a sibling to talk to.

– Thankful for My Family

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column.

Email questions to or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married for 33 years. His parents disliked me from our first date. I have no idea why. I was only 16. We married two years later, and his parents didn’t come to the wedding and stopped speaking to my husband for the next 23 years. They missed knowing our oldest son. When our second child was born, I wanted him to have grandparents, so I called them the day we came home from the hospital. They stopped by for a visit, and things seemed to improve. Well, that truce lasted 10 years, and now my mother-in-law is not speaking to us again.

My in-laws spread terrible rumors about us. We live in a small town, and even the store clerks tell us the awful things my in-laws say. Annie, my son loves his grandparents and calls to talk to them, but they never pick up the phone. He leaves voicemail messages telling them he loves and misses them. They never call back.

This is heartbreaking. What do I say to a 10-year-old to help him understand why his Grandma and Grandpa won’t speak to him? My hope is that they see this letter and realize they have a loving family who wants them in their lives. We are not likely to have another 23 years to fix this.

– Hurting Daughter-in-Law

Dear Hurting: We do not understand parents who deliberately stop contact with children and grandchildren who love them and want to be close. Even if your in-laws had some reason for excluding you, it is reprehensible that they think nothing of hurting the grandchildren in the process. Could your husband speak to his parents about this? Would they agree to joint counseling to work on whatever issues are bothering them?

If they refuse to address this and continue the silent treatment, we suggest telling your son that Grandma and Grandpa have difficulty dealing with others and that sometimes such people need to be left alone. Reassure him that it has nothing to do with him, and that you hope someday his grandparents will be able to cope better.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Evil Stepmother,” whose husband’s daughter doesn’t want him to walk her down the aisle. When my daughter married, she asked her stepfather to walk her halfway down, and her father met her there and walked her to her soon-to-be-husband. Everyone was happy.

– C.

Dear C.: Several readers wrote with some variation of that suggestion, which is a lovely idea, and we hope the husband’s daughter will consider it.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: It’s graduation time again. A while back, a teacher asked you about graduation gifts for students. You said, “Many graduates deeply appreciate a personal letter from a teacher expressing positive thoughts about the student.”

Teachers, please don’t underestimate that final statement. For those who feel obligated to give something more tangible, an inexpensive gift representing your relationship with the student along with a personal note would also be treasured.

I know. I received such a gift 30 years ago – a piece of music that our band performed. And while I appreciated the monetary gifts from my relatives, that small gift is the one that still touches me the most deeply.

I’m a parent now. I know that teachers don’t make a great deal of money, but still get invited to a lot of graduation parties. We’d rather have the teacher at the party to give our kids a final word of encouragement than have them stay away for lack of a present.

To my fellow parents: Graduation is such a busy time, but I ask that when inviting a teacher, coach, church youth leader or any other adult who may have had a positive effect on your children’s lives, please include a personal note in the invitation. Here’s mine: “Having you as a music teacher has meant so much to ‘Sally’ that we would be honored if you could join us in celebrating her graduation. You already have given her the priceless gift of a passion for music, so please don’t feel obligated to bring anything else. Your presence at her party would be the greatest gift you could give her.”

– Maryland Parent

Dear Maryland: Thank you for reminding teachers, parents and students that personal notes of appreciation, whether accompanied by gifts or not, are cherished for years to come. Now is the time to get started.

Dear Annie: When my birthday was coming up, I told my wife about a piece of technology I really wanted and asked her to buy it for me. It cost $300. She said it was too expensive and didn’t get me anything except a card. In the past three weeks, she has purchased three birthday gifts for friends, each costing roughly $100. She put in a ton of effort to find exactly the right gift.

Am I justified in feeling hurt by this snub? Should I talk to her about it, or am I being petty?

– Ignored

Dear Ignored: We certainly can understand why you would be miffed that your wife has no problem spending $300 on friends and nothing on you. But some people don’t like being told what to buy, because it takes all the joy out of the occasion. Or perhaps your wife disapproved of the piece of technology you wanted. Or maybe she thinks you could get these things for yourself, especially if the money comes from the same account.

We suspect your real issue is that your wife seems to value her friends more than her husband. This certainly merits a discussion. Please talk to your wife. Tell her you are hurt and ask whether more is going on than meets the eye.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: My 32-year-old son is currently traveling overseas on business. He is staying at a hotel, but he visited my sister’s house to see his aunt and his grandma, who live near his place of business. My niece and her husband also came by to see my son. My son spent a few hours napping in my niece’s old bedroom and then left for the hotel.

Two days later, my son got a call at 2 a.m. from his aunt asking whether he had found a ring in his bag, because her daughter said she left her ring on the makeup table in her old room. Mind you, she didn’t notice it was missing for two days. And while my son was in her room, he left his bag in the living room.

So I guess my sister is accusing my son of stealing the ring. My son denied taking the ring and was very upset and angry. He is still overseas, and I don’t want to discuss this with him now and disturb his business appointments. My son has never had problems stealing as far as we know. He lives in L.A. and is financially secure.

What is the best approach to this situation? Should I just pay the value of the ring to my sister? Should we wait until my son comes back and ask what happened?

– Upset Mom in USA

Dear Mom: Yes, please wait until your son comes back. You don’t seem 100-percent certain that he didn’t take the ring. And of course, it’s equally possible that your niece put the ring somewhere else, doesn’t recall doing so and believes your son took it. Things are misplaced all the time, and others are often blamed. Tell your sister you will speak to your son as soon as he returns and work it out. If you believe he is responsible for the ring, ask how much it would cost to replace it. If you think your son is innocent, you could offer to split the cost for the sake of family harmony. The price of the ring is less important than the relationship with your sister.

Dear Annie: Your advice to “A Wife” regarding job applications was spot on, especially when you said, “Be sure to include a cover letter.”

When I owned my own business, I would not consider an applicant’s resume without a cover letter. Only once did I disregard this rule and hired a person whose qualifications were exactly what I was looking for. She quit a month later, saying she was bored. I should have known, because she was not motivated enough to write a cover letter in the first place. A few years later, she contacted me and asked for her job back. I declined.

– Paco from Albany, N.Y.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to To find out more, visit

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: What do you do with an old and dear friend who now says something negative at every opportunity? “Lorene” and I live in different states, but used to be in touch daily by phone and on Facebook and have spent time together fairly often when she visits her family here. For years, we were as close as sisters. Then, last year, as Lorene prepared for a reunion with her high school class, she began to change toward me. She hurt my feelings a number of times with subtle snipes and negative comments and, eventually, with a snub that was so insulting, we had a falling out. We didn’t speak for some time, but I missed my friend and reconnected with her on Facebook. She welcomed my friend request, but ever since, the snipes and negative comments have been ongoing.

If I post a photo from a lovely vacation somewhere, Lorene makes a negative comment about the place, the weather, the cost or that I was alone there. If I post about some activity I’m planning, she’s full of warnings and cautions. If I post an old family photo, she turns my happy memory into a feeling of loss, commenting about how sad it is that others in the photo died before me. When I tried to discuss her attitude, she became defensive and seemed to misunderstand me, so I dropped it.

This is someone who used to call me every day to chat. We have many mutual friends, so it’s impossible to avoid her. I miss my friend and don’t understand where she went. Should I unfriend her on Facebook? Should I just “take it” in silence? What would you do?

– Mourning a Lost Friendship

Dear Mourning: Might Lorene be having health issues that affect her personality? Suggest she talk to her doctor because you’re worried about her. Is she only negative about you? It could be jealousy or some long-forgotten argument. And it is not uncommon for some people, as they age, to develop a habit of complaining. Lorene may have no idea how she comes across.

It is unlikely that she will ever be the woman you once knew. Can you accept her as she is, ignoring the negativity and focusing only on the good things? Would you rather limit contact, using Facebook to keep track of her, but without phone calls and visits? You don’t need to cut her off completely, but decide what her friendship is worth to you and respond accordingly.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Is There Hope for Me?” who said her husband shows no affection toward her after 27 years of marriage. Everything was the way he wanted it. Her marriage sounds similar to mine. After 43 years, we are now in the process of divorcing. I have had more than enough of having it his way. I am a clergywoman and regret that I was not strong enough to make this move years ago. Yes, there’s hope. Do something. It’s your life.

– C.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I live in a very small town. We have one small, locally owned family-friendly drive-in restaurant with an attached ice-cream shop. This is a central meeting place in our area.

Here’s the problem: There is an older woman working there who makes me cringe every time she takes my order. On repeated occasions, I’ve seen her eating at the counter that separates the ice-cream fountain area from the patrons.

She licks her fingers and then, without washing her hands, handles the cones for our order.

She also touches all of the ice-cream machines and spoons and pulls some stuff out with her fingers.

I can only imagine what she does behind the swinging doors. I have gently commented that perhaps she should wash her hands, but it doesn’t get through.

This restaurant is owned by a nice woman, but I don’t know her that well and am not comfortable mentioning this problem to her.

But I find it hard to patronize the place, because this woman’s methods are so gross, and I don’t want to get sick.

We are lucky to have this business in our town, as it employs a lot of people. How do I tactfully say something without causing a stink in the community? And to whom do I say it? The owner is on the board of some of the organizations that my children are involved in.

– Grossed Out in a Small Town

Dear Small Town: We are certain the owner would not want to lose the patronage of the community because one of her employees doesn’t use proper hygiene. This is a matter for your local city, state or county health department. You can make an anonymous report, and they should investigate and, if necessary, issue a warning or citation.

Dear Annie: This is for “Betsey,” who complained about parents in their 80s wanting to know when their kids would be out of town.

When my husband and I retired, we often took short trips. Both of our kids were frantic not knowing where we were and were insistent that we get a cellphone. We thought it was hilarious!

– Traveling Parents

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column.

Email questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: My brother-in-law, “Tom,” lives with us because he is not able to hold a job. Fifteen years ago, he moved to the Midwest with his wife and children. He was there for a year, and then his wife divorced him. We paid for his ticket home, and he lived with us for three months. He then moved to California to live with a cousin, but they threw him out when he couldn’t hold onto a job and pay rent. He became homeless.

Tom moved back into his mother’s house and found work, but only for a brief time before he was fired. Any money he had saved, he spent in bars and on women. When Mom went into a nursing home, Tom couldn’t pay the upkeep on the house, so he rented it out and ended up homeless again. So we took him in.

We helped Tom get food stamps and a part-time job. He sees a counselor once a month. Our only rule is that he has to be in by 9 p.m., because I work early, and when he comes home late, it wakes me up. But Tom has a hard time following this.

Tom continues to make poor choices, and I am afraid he will end up living with us permanently. Why is he this way? And what can I do to help?

– Miserable Sister-in-Law

Dear Miserable: Counseling should help determine why Tom makes poor choices. But he also could use a physical checkup. It’s possible Tom suffers from attention deficit disorder and cannot focus on the work at hand. Or he may have an alcohol problem. However, your kindness is also a form of enabling. By giving Tom a cushion to fall back on, he hasn’t had to take complete responsibility for his own actions. A 9 p.m. curfew is rather early for an adult, but it is a small price to pay for free housing.

Talk to your husband so you are both in agreement about how to handle Tom. You could take away his house key and tell him the doors will be bolted after 9. You could throw him out. You could ask him to pay a small amount of rent from his part-time job. But we also recommend that you and your husband request a joint session with Tom and his counselor to talk about the best way to deal with this.

Dear Annie: Here’s my response to people who keep interrupting me when I’m talking. As soon as they butt in, I say, “I’m sorry I interrupted the beginning of your sentence with the middle of mine.” Most of the time, it stops them in their tracks trying to figure out what I mean.

– Kentucky

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to or write to Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Annie’s Mailbox

Dear Annie: I was widowed five years ago, after 36 years of marriage. Recently, I reunited with my boyfriend from junior high school. “Harry” is in the final weeks of a divorce.

It turns out that Harry and I are very much in love. Unfortunately, my oldest daughter is extremely angry that I am dating a man whose divorce is not final. She refuses to meet Harry and wants me to stop seeing him. She will not visit me or permit me to spend time with my two grandchildren as long as I am with Harry.

I have always been close to my three adult children. I am terribly hurt by my daughter’s refusal to allow contact. We have gone to counseling separately, and I am hoping, in time, that we can get some joint counseling. But right now, my daughter won’t even talk to me. We are at an impasse. Any advice?

– Widow

Dear Widow: If your daughter truly objects to your seeing a man who is not yet legally divorced, then there will be no change until his status is resolved. And you might consider waiting. While you knew Harry as a young girl, your current relationship is new. Please take your time.

Your daughter also may feel that you are trying to replace her father, and she could reject any man you date. Many grown children have a difficult time accepting that their widowed parent is in love with someone else. They feel that as long as you remain a grieving widow, your late husband is the love of your life. Anything else is a betrayal. It is, of course, terribly selfish of any child to deny parents such future happiness and expect them to live in the past. We hope counseling helps you both.

Dear Annie: I have another perspective on “Concerned Cousin,” who worried about grandchildren occasionally sharing a bed with the grandparents.

My husband and I have 12 grandchildren. When they sleep over, we put them in the same little tent our daughter once slept in when we camped out, along with a second small tent we purchased later. The kids love it, and we can keep an eye on them throughout the night.

In this day and age, it is important to take precautions. We are loving, caring grandparents, but the reality is, if a parent decides to punish you, you can be accused of terrible things you never did.

– Protect the Grandparents

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at